The java experts at Compass Coffee in Washington, D.C. reveal the secrets and science behind brewing a flawless cup of coffee.

Quiet, please. I am analyzing.

Today we’re asking Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, two of the country’s top coffee virtuosos, to give us their best tips for making that hallmark of hosting, the perfect cuppa joe. Co-authors of this book, which is the definitive guide to brewing flawless java, Michael and Harrison are the owners of Compass Coffee, a roaster and café in Washington, DC, to which all the local caffeine connoisseurs navigate. What do you say we get a little tipsy and see what’s brewing?

Coffee is such a big part of entertaining. What’s your best tip for brewing the perfect cup?

Michael: The number one thing you can do to improve the coffee you serve is to grind your beans right before brewing them. Coffee has more flavor compounds than wine, but those compounds deteriorate quickly when exposed to oxygen. Grinding your beans right before you brew them keeps those compounds intact.

Harrison: Agreed. Pre-ground coffee loses all of its flavor because it goes stale so quickly. Do yourself a favor and buy a grinder. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, buy this one from Bodum. This burr grinder from Baratza is more than most people would expect to pay for a grinder but, if you’re a connoisseur, it’s money well spent. It ensures a proper particle distribution so you get all the best flavors from your cup of coffee.

The java experts at Compass Coffee in Washington, D.C. reveal the secrets and science behind brewing a flawless cup of coffee.

Harrison Suarez and Michael Haft of Compass Coffee

What kind of beans make the best coffee?

Michael: Always buy good coffee beans. They should be whole beans, sustainably farmed, and roasted within the past few weeks. We also suggest buying lighter roasts because they enable you to better taste the flavors—the terroir—of the coffee. With darker roasts, you’re missing out. It’s like taking a nice steak and charring it beyond recognition.

What is the best way to store coffee beans?

Harrison: Keep them in an airtight container and away from sunlight. A major point of debate in the coffee world is whether or not to freeze coffee beans. We fall somewhere in between. If it’s going to be more than two weeks before brewing, freeze them. Otherwise, avoid it.

The java experts at Compass Coffee in Washington, D.C. reveal the secrets and science behind brewing a flawless cup of coffee.

Michael and Harrison say “The Golden Ratio” is the key to making the perfect cup of coffee

What is the right proportion of coffee to water?

Michael: A major mistake people make is not using enough coffee. The key is to start with the Golden Ratio of 17.42 units – whether grams or ounces or whatever unit your prefer – of water to 1 unit of coffee. So, for example, if you’re using one cup – or 237 grams – of water, you’d want to use about 2-3/4 teaspoons – or 13.6 grams – of ground coffee. That ratio will get you into the optimal flavor zone.

The classic Bodum French press coffee maker is a favorite

I know you’re both strong believers in using quality brewing products, so what is your favorite:

At-home coffeemaker: Technivorm
At-home espresso machine: La Marzocco Linea Mini 
French press: Bodum Chambord
Coffee grinder: Baratza Forte Brew Grinder. It’s automatic and so durable.

What’s your favorite cocktail made with coffee?

Michael: I love a Dark and Stormy. I mix together 2 ounces of Myers Original Dark Rum, 3 ounces of Gosling’s Ginger Beer and 1 ounce of espresso and garnish it with a lime.

Harrison: Mine is a Compass White Russian, which is one ounce of Triple Eight Vodka, 1 ounce of heavy cream and 1.5 ounces of Compass Coffee Liqueur.

The java experts at Compass Coffee in Washington, D.C. reveal the secrets and science behind brewing a flawless cup of coffee.

A cortado, an espresso made with a small amount of warm milk, is a lovely fall treat

Cups also play a role in the enjoyment of coffee. Which are your favorites?

Michael: We love serving coffee in these mugs. Their award-winning design lets you enjoy the full aroma of the coffee.

Harrison: And for enjoying coffee on the go, this thermos from Zojirushi is the best one ever designed.

Who do you think makes the perfect cup of coffee?

Michael: Of course, we think we do. But when we’re not drinking Compass Coffee, Austin’s Cuvée Coffee is our favorite.

Michael and Harrison, thanks for stopping by and sharing your knowledge with us. What a perk.

Brewing Coffee Welcome Mashup

Welcome photograph: Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor
Welcome quote: Forbidden Planet, 1956

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